SUAMICO — Aromatic cedar boxes, plaques, decorative bowls, tissue boxes, goblets and many more wood creations by John “Jack” Schindhelm fill tables in his garage.
Schindhelm, a retired teacher, said that he needs to move items, so he can make more.
“There were no craft fairs (due to the pandemic). I still have to stay busy,” he said.
Schindhelm makes items — many featuring engravings through use of a laser — for family and friends and usually sells at craft fairs. He donates the money to his parish religious education program — previously at St. Benedict Parish, Suamico, and now at SS. Edward and Isidore Parish, Flintville, where he and his wife, Linda, are members.
“I don’t even deduct for the materials,” he said.
Schindhelm, who grew up in Appleton, the third of eight children of Robert and Ann Schindhelm, keeps his costs down.
“My dad was conservative, frugal. I inherited that,” he said. “For most of my wood, I saw up logs. My kids bring me old furniture, so most of my materials — other than for my decorative bowls, that’s exotic wood — I don’t have to buy.”
In addition to his financial donations in support of religious education, Schindhelm uses his woodworking skills to give back through item gifts. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus Fr. Al Hietpas Council #6764 at St. Benedict Parish.
“I make plaques for the confirmation and first communicants at St. Benedict,” he said. “They have the name, date, the church and some saying on them.”
The religious education classes are much larger at SS. Edward and Isidore, so he made key chains for the students.
On behalf of the Knights of Columbus, Schindhelm also makes wooden crosses for funerals at St. Benedict. The crosses feature the name of the deceased, date of birth and date of death.
“They put them up on the altar after the funeral,” he explained. “Then, on Nov. 1, they give them to the families. The wood I use is flooring I got from my brother-in-law. It’s hickory, which is very hard.”
Schindhelm, a graduate of UW-Stout, began his education career teaching industrial arts in Hortonville. He then moved on to Neenah, where he taught for 10 years. He worked as a pattern maker at Neenah Foundry for nine years and at a pattern shop in Little Chute for about three years. Schindhelm decided to go back to school at UW-Oshkosh to earn a master’s degree in special education.
“When I got to Oshkosh, I learned that industrial arts was changed to tech ed and there were all kinds of jobs,” he said. “I took a fast track nine credits that summer and got a (teaching) job in Bonduel. I loved it, but I commuted 40 miles. After two years, I got an offer from Kaukauna in (teaching) machine shop, just six miles from my house. I spent my last 13 years teaching there.
“I’ve taught everything except auto mechanics — electronics, power mechanics, graphic arts, woodworking, printing, computers, you name it,” he added.
Schindhelm, whose craftsmanship is also displayed in several pieces of furniture he designed and built for his home and his children’s homes, retired in 2011. In 2006, he and Linda moved to Suamico to live on a lake (Lake Leone). The couple, who have been married for 48 years, have two daughters and a son, and eight grandchildren, ages 17 to 3. While in Appleton, they were members of St. Bernard Parish.
The late Fr. Orville Janssen, founding and longtime pastor at St. Bernard, had a profound effect on Schindhelm’s faith life.
“Listening to him, I guess that’s what really turned me on to the faith,” he said. “Fr. Janssen was a good friend of mine. I went to all of his Bible studies. We were there for more than 35 years.”
Schindhelm taught confirmation at St. Bernard for 10 years and, later, religious education at St. Benedict. His involvement in the Knights of Columbus includes serving as financial secretary. Woodworking is also a form of outreach for Schindhelm.
“The reward is a little bit of pride that I made that,” he said, “but if there is anything that someone needs that I can make out of wood, I will make it out of wood. I love giving things to people.”
Special wood projects have included plaques commemorating the 150-year anniversary of the Diocese of Green Bay and a piece chronicling the history of St. Rose Parish, Clintonville, at the request of Norbertine Fr. Tim Shillcox, pastor.
“I do what I do for two reasons,” he added, “to keep my mind going and body, and because I’m so grateful. I feel so blessed that I’m alive and blessed for my family.”
To contact Schindhelm about a custom made wood product, email [email protected].